How Pinterest Can Help Nonprofits

8 Feb

If you’re the type that keeps your ear to the floor of the interweb, then you know Pinterest is the upcoming darling of social media. The website became the focus of even attention when a study by Shareaholic found that the site creates more referral traffic than Google +, LinkedIn and YouTube combined. This fact has businesses interested—and nonprofit organizations should be paying attention too.

An Overview of Pinterest for the Uninitiated

For those unfamiliar, Pinterest is a social media website that functions like a virtual pin board. Users can create and name boards around topics they love and add images and text from websites, computers, or phones. These images can be shared with friends o followers on Pinterest as well as Facebook and Twitter.

Examples of what people “pin” include wish lists, favorite travel destinations, arts and crafts, wedding dresses, motivational quotes, fashion favorites, the latest tech and much more. If users like, they can include a link to the item they pinned and help friends find more information (hence the traffic referrals).

Why Pinterest has Businesses Salivating

It’s all about traffic referrals and driving online sales. Many of the items posted to Pinterest are products and services users own, have used, or want to own or use. If their friends are curious about the product, clicking the image will bring users directly to the retailer or relevant website. Based on this interaction, Pinterest provides brands with some of the following benefits:

  1. “Free” exposure of their brand and product  (learn how Pinterest makes money)
  2. Third-party endorsement from a trusted source (i.e. your friends);
  3. Direct e-commerce referrals that can convert to sales.

According to , business operators such as Daniel Gordon of Samuel Gordon Jewelers posts pins of rings and watches the company sells along with other images he enjoys, while stores like Whole Foods Market posts pictures of food, recipes and other items. Meanwhile, companies like have “seen a 446 percent increase in web traffic from Pinterest and sales resulting from those visits have increased five-fold.”

How Nonprofits Can Use Pinterest

Nonprofits can leverage Pinterest in the same way that businesses have for similar benefit. Consider the hypothetical case of Habitat for Humanity who, as of publish date, is not on Pinterest.

This organization no doubt has archives chock-full of heart-warming imagery of houses being built, volunteers building those houses and of the families being placed in homes. This content can be posted on Pinterest to tell the organization’s story and the stories of the people they serve, helping drive traffic back to their website or increase donations.

Habitat for Humanity could also be creative in the types of pin boards they use. Some boards could be labeled DIY and include videos or instructions on how to repair household issues. Other boards might show the photos of constructed, but unfurnished homes and invite followers to donate furniture.

Other large nonprofit organizations such as Amnesty International and Unicef have recognized the value of Pinterest and established a presence.  I recommend watching these organizations closely to see which benefits they are able to yield through interactions on Pinterest. The platform may not be for every nonprofit, but for those that can use Pinterest strategically, the rewards may be great.

— Calvin Allen


5 Responses to “How Pinterest Can Help Nonprofits”

  1. priyanka23 February 9, 2012 at 2:22 am #

    A good one Calvin. After FB & Twitter saturation, Pinterest looks much more vibrant. Its more like Photojournalism! I agree with you about its potential leverage for various industries including NGOs for different purposes. Keep writing!

  2. Amritpal February 9, 2012 at 3:05 am #

    Very interesting Calvin. Pinterest has be generating major media attention lately. Do you find it beneficial to bloggers like ourselves? Or is it highly advantageous to individuals and companies with physical products? How would a service company benefit? Interested in your responses to these questions. Thanks!

  3. sat322jp February 23, 2012 at 10:41 pm #

    Your blog post is very insightful and thought-provoking. As you mentioned, Pinterest can be used in many ways by many organizations, including NPO. Appealing pictures posted on the platform will help urge more people to donate.

    As for donation, social media has shown its huge potentials to band people together and raise money in a way other media never could. When earthquakes and tsunamis hit my country, Japan, earlier last year, websites such as Facebook and Twitter drew upon the global network, and within a few days they raised millions of dollars of donations for the victims. One of the visible examples is However, there are scam sites as were in times of the crisis in Japan. Pinterest is no exception. How can we create and maintain the environment in which people can donate without anxiety of scams? This is one of the biggest challenges for online media.

    *For your information, the following article is about online donations for the March 11 earthquake and tsunami victims:

  4. Erin Clark February 28, 2012 at 6:55 pm #

    Calvin, very interesting post to read, especially since I’ve yet to explore Pinterest. (Gasp.) I particularly enjoyed the “Why Pinterest has Businesses Salivating” section; the Ideeli figures were astounding.

    My sister-in-law works as an analyst for a popular handbag company and was raving about their experience with Pinterest. Accompanying the three brand benefits you mentioned, she discussed the opportunity for monitoring. Companies can see what types of prints and patterns users are pinning, the pinning of competing brands, and which products of their own are being shared.

  5. the picture below February 28, 2014 at 10:16 pm #

    I was wondering if you ever considered changing the
    page layout of your site? Its very well written;
    I love what youve got to say. But maybe you could a little more
    in the way of content so people could connect with it better.
    Youve got an awful lot of text for only having 1 or
    two pictures. Maybe you could space it out better?

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